VMWare workstation vs Actual workstation for 3D softwares

Hallo Experts

Our company is implementing 3D platform in place of all our CAD software. We are procuring Autodesk plant 3d, factory design suite, revit, inventor etc. etc. The bread and butter of our company is engineering. So all of our 3D software will be various engineering software not 3D studio / Maya like multimedia software.

Now we are evaluating various workstation which may be required for those. Primarily i3 4GB RAM 1GB Graphics Card workstation category pcs are fixed. We need to buy nearly 1200 workstations for this purpose. We are slowly going to virtualization and cloud. In this scenario should we consider VMWare virtual workstations in place of actual workstations? Will there be any problem in those virtual pcs for 3D softwares? Can you suggest if any problem we may face if we consider all our 3D workstations as virtual vmware workstation?

Please help,

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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
It's certainly possible that a VDI environment may work for you, but it really depends if a VDI environment can give the reach 3D experience you desire.

Checkout this VDI Smackdown Whitepaper comparison

I doubt that a VM environment can give you the OpenGL performance you need for CAD.  Those specialized cards can cost thousands of dollars, and vmware that could effectively replace them would save companies millions - they would do it in a heartbeat.  Here are stated limitations from the company: http://www.vmware.com/support/ws5/doc/ws_vidsound_d3d_limitations.html

It is very difficult to replicate video performance on anything other than a local machine running on a high performance video card.
Gary CaseRetiredCommented:
Although the latest versions of VMWare do support 3D acceleration;  I agree with Callandor that it's very unlikely you'll get the OpenGL performance you need for good performance with CAD software.    I'd tread VERY lightly in the virtualization arena for those applications.   You could TRY one ... but I doubt you'll find that your engineers will be satisfied with th performance.

For that matter, I'd think carefully about your "i3, 4GB, 1GB graphics card" specs.    I'd think an i5 with 8GB would give far better performance at a very modest difference in cost.

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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
The Recent Technology Preview 2012 VMware Workstation, includes even better OpenGL support. But you will still need to test, because I do not think that virtualisation will perform as well as a dedicated OpenGL or Direct 3D GPU. It was hopped that ESXi 5.0 would include CUDA support, but this development has been put back.

Graphics Rendering – We have made substantial changes to our graphics virtualization code. We are in the process of optimizing the new graphics code for performance, but currently need feedback to ensure that applications are rendering correctly and are stable.

OpenGL for Linux Guests - VMware has developed an OpenGL graphics driver and upstreamed it to X.Org. The driver has been included in the Ubuntu 12.04 Beta among other Linux distributions. We would like our users to install the Ubuntu beta as a guest OS and give us feedback on the capability and performance of the new driver.

There is no right or wrong answer to this question as each scenario will be different but Autodesk has been used within VMWare virtual machines as well as Citirx's XenApp software. In most cases you can get between 4 and 8 users per server, with a dedicated graphics card for each virtual workstation being a good idea for 3D visual performance. According to this article:

The autodesk family of plant design software is not listed as a supported application for virtualization, additional reading:

Since you are looking at replacing such a high number of workstations you should work out the details with your Autodesk VAR (Value Added Reseller) and first find out if the software is first capable of running in a virtual environment and second about possibly setting up a demo installation so that some of your users and management can try out the technology first.
More reading:

System Requirements for Autodesk Citrix Ready products

AutoCAD Hardware and Network Recommendations for Citrix XenApp

AutoCAD Performance Recommendations for Citrix XenApp

AutoCad 2011, VDI using XenDesktop over Internet connection
Soumen-RoyAuthor Commented:
@silverkorn / @hanccocka / @garycase,

I really don't how to thank you for all your valuable comments and links. I am now going through all the links you gave me and creating VMWare ESXi Server and Client Workstation for my evaluation purpose. Give me some time.

I will definitely give you my feedback what I am getting here.

I am evaluating

1. VMWare Intel Xeon CPU E 5640 @2.67 GHz 2.66GHz 4GB RAM VMWare SVGA 3D Card


2. Dell Precission i3 2120 @ 3.3 GHz 3.2 Ghz 4 GB RAM NVidia Quadro 600 1GB Graphics Card


3. HP Cad Workstation with same configuration as Dell

I will let you know my observations with these three. If you provide me some more links / comments in the mean time, it will be really helpful.

Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
Just an observation, your VMware ESXi test server does not have much memory, when the Hypervisor requires memory as well as the Virtual Machine it's hosting. So compares to the two physical clients, they will have a total of 4GB available to the OS. The Windows Client will have less under the Hypervisor.

Also ensure for testing purposes under ESXi, you should use ESXi 5.0, and Enable 3D Graphics Support, and use a Version 8.0 virtual machine.

A very quick test, would be to run the Windows Index, but I think you will find 2 & 3 faster, because your tests are likely to be conducted using RDP (Remote Desktop), rather than PCoIP, using VMware View would possibly give a better end user experience.
If you would like to try the Ciritx XenApp you could create a server on Amazon's EC2 which costs about $0.12 USD an hour of usage. The procedure can be found here:
Soumen-RoyAuthor Commented:

We are already using VMWare. So it is easier to convince stake holders to use VMWare. I know Citrix may be better, as AutoDesk also recommending Citrix for virtualization for their products but, it will be very difficult to convince upper management to purchase Citrix though there is VMWare already in office.
Soumen-RoyAuthor Commented:
Thanx to all,

I have completed my testing. I will close this question today. Attaching my testing result, just , in case you are interested. I can not attach file for security reason. Just copy paste the following table. Its tab delimited.

My overall impression is,

HP is consistent, Dell is better performer for some cases but below expectation level at certain level. VMWare will not work at all as Solidworks fails on VM Ware in large files.

                                          HP 32 Bit XP             HP 64 Bit XP             Dell 32 Bit      Dell 64 Bit      VMWare 32 Bit      VMWare 64 Bit
                                          Nvidia Quadro 600      Nvidia Quadro 600
AutoCad 2012                  Blank Open 1st Time      00:01:08:68            00:01:14:27            00:00:42:29      00:01:14:23      00:01:33:10      00:04:23:19
                        Blank Open 2nd Time      00:00:07:79            00:00:49:10            00:00:15:50      00:00:47:56      00:00:18:61      00:00:35:10
                        52 MB Layout Drawing      00:02:35:36            00:02:38:32            00:02:40:61      00:02:39:39      00:05:25:86      00:05:21:97
                        92 MB Meltshop 3D Drawing
                                          00:00:33:33            00:00:40:28             00:00:39:10      00:00:56:77       00:01:14:80      00:01:30:76
                                                            (Render: 00:02:02:29)                  (Render: 00:02:28:09)            (Render: 00:02:00:28)
AutoCad Structural Detailing      Blank Open 1st Time      00:00:18:98            00:00:46:95            00:00:33:26      00:01:55:88      00:00:49:54      00:01:38:49
                        Blank Open 2nd Time      00:00:9:55            00:00:17:82            00:00:08:37      00:00:17:49      00:00:13:75      00:00:15:77
                        52 MB Layout Drawing      00:02:49:85            00:02:45:15            00:00:22:16      00:00:30:39      00:00:41:56      00:00:38:65
                        92 MB Meltshop 3D Drawing
                                          Can Not Open            00:00:47:70             00:00:40:50      00:00:52:03       Can Not Open      00:01:31:12
                                                            (Render: 00:02:26:30)                  (Render: 00:02:14:12)
Revit                        Blank Open 1st Time      00:00:34:20            00:00:53:29            00:00:28:68      00:01:10:61      00:00:37:17      00:00:47:89
                        Blank Open 2nd Time      00:00:11:32            00:00:24:65            00:00:09:25      00:00:28:69      00:00:17:58      00:00:27:82
                        17 MB Revit Drawing File      
                                          00:00:34:53            00:00:34:19            00:00:32:68      00:00:39:91      00:01:18:11      00:01:11:10
Plant Design Suite            Blank Open 1st Time      00:00:21:48            00:01:16:96            00:01:23:03      00:01:38:52      00:01:13:03      00:01:41:12
                        Blank Open 2nd Time      00:00:15:59            00:00:13:72            00:00:13:12      00:00:19:03      00:00:39:93      00:00:31:07
                        52 MB Layout Drawing      00:00:35:31            00:02:40:44            00:02:36:76      00:02:43:65      00:05:25:62      00:05:29:09
                        92 MB Meltshop 3D Drawing
                                          00:00:44:68            00:00:43:72             00:00:30:65      00:00:51:53      Can Not Open      00:01:25:68
                                                            (Render: 00:02:12:47)                                          (Render: 00:02:52:30)
Solidworks                  Blank Open 1st Time      00:00:21:48            00:00:28:32            00:00:25:40      00:00:29:56      "fails"            00:00:45:01
                        Blank Open 2nd Time      00:00:15:59            00:00:04:08            00:00:10:28      00:00:06:02      "fails"            00:00:11:91
                        139 MB Solidworks File      Can Not Open            00:36:07:03            Can Not Open      00:40:01:55      "fails"            Can Not Open
                        140 MB Solidworks File      Can Not Open            00:40:12:22            Can Not Open      00:42:22:42      "fails"            Hangs On First Try
                                                                                                                  Critical Memory Error On
                                                                                                                  Second try after 00:47:17:61
STAAD                        Blank Open 1st Time      00:00:06:15            00:00:06:11            00:00:08:12      "fails"            00:00:05:59      00:00:05:29
                        Open 534 KB Solution      00:05:31:45            00:05:30:88            00:04:28:12      "fails"            00:07:18:18      00:07:53:97
                        Analysis 534 KB Solution00:05:47:02            00:05:48:00            00:07:38:54      "fails"            00:07:21:43      00:09:09:85

thanking you,
Soumen-RoyAuthor Commented:
Thanx experts for all your efforts and help.
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